Voice Infringement Allegations: Scarlett Johansson Lashes Out at OpenAI

May 21, 2024 – In a recent development, the tech giant OpenAI has decided to temporarily suspend the “Sky” voice feature of its popular chatbot, ChatGPT. The decision comes in response to users pointing out a striking resemblance between the voice and that of actress Scarlett Johansson.

According to a blog post by OpenAI, “Sky” is one of five available voices, sourced from a professional actress, and was not intentionally modeled after Johansson’s voice. Johansson, who is known for her role in the film “Her” as a virtual assistant that falls in love with the protagonist, has expressed her concern over the similarity.

CNN reports that Johansson released a statement last night, revealing that OpenAI contacted her in September last year with a request to lend her voice. Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, believed that her voice could bridge the gap between technology companies and creative talent, and help consumers feel more comfortable with the ever-evolving landscape of human-AI interaction.

However, Johansson declined the offer for personal reasons. She expressed shock, anger, and disbelief upon hearing the demo voice at the recent OpenAI event, stating that her friends and media outlets could hardly distinguish between the two. Altman further sparked controversy by implying that the similarity was intentional, tweeting the word “Her” — a reference to Johansson’s role in the film as Samantha, a chatbot that forms an emotional bond with a human.

Two days prior to the event, Altman contacted Johansson’s agent, hoping she would reconsider. However, the event proceeded without her involvement. Johansson subsequently hired legal counsel to demand clarification from OpenAI on the process of creating the “Sky” voice. Ultimately, OpenAI “agreed reluctantly” to replace the “Sky” voice.

This incident has sparked discussions on the ethics of AI voice synthesis and the potential risks of unintentionally infringing on individuals’ voices and identities. OpenAI’s decision to suspend the “Sky” voice, though temporary, signals a commitment to addressing these concerns and ensuring more responsible AI development in the future.

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